Discover St. Louis’ Original Female Movers and Makers Via an Online Event June 5
From its earliest days, St. Louis has been shaped by female entrepreneurs. Their fascinating stories will take center stage in the STL History Live program “Discovery Tour: Movers and Makers” on Friday, June 5, at 2 p.m.
One of the best-known St. Louis female entrepreneurs is Annie Turnbo Malone, a chemist and businesswoman who specialized in beauty products. In 1918, Malone established the original Poro College in north St. Louis, a trade school to train beauticians and barbers as well as secretaries and bookkeepers. She founded branches of Poro College in 15 cities, and the endeavor was so successful that by the 1930s Malone was one of the wealthiest African American women in the world.
Annie Malone. Detail of group photographed on roof garden of the Poro College Building, 25 April 1927. Photograph by W.C. Persons, 1927. Missouri Historical Society Photographs and Prints Collections. NS 35629. Scan © 2007, Missouri Historical Society.
Malone was also an inventor, most famously patenting a pressing comb for hair which is still in use today, and a philanthropist who gave away much of her fortune to social service organizations. Her contributions to the St. Louis Colored Orphans Home led to its being renamed for her. Although she moved the business to Chicago in 1930, she continued to support St. Louis charities—and there is still an annual Annie Malone Parade in St. Louis.
Another entrepreneur from the early 1900s was Grace Ashley, a St. Louis dress designer, model, saleswoman and manufacturer. She set up a small shop in 1933, after her divorce, when she was faced with the problem of establishing economic independence with no business training. She designed blouse-like dresses “unchanged from day to day or year to year, equally comfortable on the golf links or at a cocktail party” just by changing accessories. She was able to build a prosperous business during the height of the Depression because of the simplicity of her design.
As one of St. Louis’ early residents from 1764 (the year of its founding) until her death in 1814, Marie-Thérèse Bourgeois Chouteau presided over business dealings for the influential Chouteau-Laclede family. Her acumen as a fur trader, landowner and grain dealer was remarkably profitable for the time—and helped establish Chouteau and her descendants among the elite residents of the new city.
Join Hattie Felton, senior curator at the Missouri Historical Society, and community initiatives specialist Emily Underwood to discover—and rediscover—the stories of these and other makers, company founders and high-tech leaders.
The online event “Discovery Tour: Movers and Makers” takes place on Friday, June 5, at 2 p.m. It’s part of the Missouri Historical Society’s free STL History Live programming. For the Zoom link and other details, visit the series’ Facebook page.
All the previous STL History Live programs—on topics ranging from past pandemics to music to the World’s Fair to immigration—are available on the Missouri Historical Society’s YouTube channel.
Images courtesy of the Missouri Historical Society.